Bill-ism: What I learned from Bill Campbell

Yesterday, August 31st was Bill’s 76th birthday. I did what I knew he would wish me to do for his birthday. I enjoyed his favorite things: a piece of carrot cake, a chocolate chip cookie, and a Bud Light.

We miss and love you Billy-Bill — and hopefully we “don’t fuck it up”!

Columbia Lions Football Captain

Per recommendation from many people, posted below is my tribute honoring Bill shared at his memorial celebration. Let his legacy continue...


Honored to speak on behalf of Billy-Bill, my superman…

He would stand up here and say, “Why are you all crying over some old dumbdick motherfucker from Homestead Pennsylvania….”

He’d tell me to “Cut the shit Katie-Kate, nobody wants to hear about me.”

But that’s who he was…

He was humble to the bone.

Steve Jobs said it best, “He was deeply human.”

He had the profound ability to touch the hearts of each person he met. He loved us all equally. He didn’t have favorites.

He had the ability to make you feel like you were the most important person in his life… But the secret is… We all were.

He’d say this isn’t about me: This is about you.

He’d tell us to look around… Look at how much love we are enveloped by. How deeply touched we all are.

He’d tell us to continue on his legacy. Inspire. Care. Hug. And love each other…

He saw the potential in others that we didn’t believe we had in ourselves. He encouraged, empowered, and cared.

He redefined commitment. He developed great work environments. He was consistent through good and bad times.

He dreamed. He challenged and believed in the power of knowledge, in learning and expanding our horizons: How to work with people, to collaborate… How can you grow…? What do you love…? How do you want to live? How do you want others to remember you?

He influenced others. Made them better. Made them realize their potential. Pushed them beyond their limitless boundaries. He believed in us all.

He questioned the world and people around him. Did you try to do the job…? Did you try to be better than the day before…? Did you say thank you to the man or woman who served you…? Did you smile at a stranger…? Did you create an environment that welcomed and inspired everyone…? Did you hold the door for the person behind you…?

He was fascinated. He loved people. He loved learning about individuals. He loved asking how your day was. He loved assisting others. He loved hugging… Oh how I miss his hugs… He loved Bud Light. He loved football. He loved privacy. He loved simplicity.

He belonged to communities he was proud of and always remembered his roots. Homestead. Columbia. Boston College. J Walter Thompson. Kodak. Apple. Claris. Google. Intuit. Go or as Bill would say, “Go, Going, Gone…” Sacred Heart Prep. The Old Pro.

He created a community where people loved. Improved. Belonged. Succeeded. Achieved. Flourished.

He developed ways for people to be better.

He believed in making a difference — At every moment you need to step up and make your impact. He didn’t mean you needed to be a CEO. He believed we all had an opportunity to lead. Influence. Do the right thing. Care. Take ownership and responsibility… And our leadership naturally follows suit.

He knew we could all be great, as a: devoted leader, friend, teammate, business person, coach, store clerk, sister, brother, spouse. As long as you stick to your core, things will naturally fall into place.

Bill knew we were all stars, but in order to continue to shine, we must continue to grow. He changed the world, and taught us we can too…

He taught us to… learn skills that can be applied, embrace initiatives, explore our horizons, lead with our heart, collaborate, learn, and continue to grow.

Bill believed that in this overdone world of Silicon Valley, money and status are becoming too important, and we need to reflect on our roots, give back to our community, and take care of those who surround you.

Of course he wouldn’t dispute that a buck or two could help — He did grow up working in the steel mills where the steam left him eyebrow less through his high school years.

What matters to him was providing value. Helping people. Making others better. Judging yourself by how others feel when you are around. Loving what you do.

He believed in the transformative power of an education. We live in a rich and challenging world, we have social freedoms that breed friendships. It’s our imperative to treat others with respect.

It’s necessary to be reminded everyday that academic, cultural, social, and athletic diversity aren’t just tolerated, but encouraged and cherished.

Our uniqueness is powerful. It’s our strength. Value people for themselves. Respect others who embrace their genuine nature.

We shouldn’t be granted respect; we earn respect. By treating others with compassion. Giving them our time. Actually listening to their answer when you ask someone how they are doing. Being a person built for others.

As technology continues to transform our lives, we need to remember Billy-Bill and how he valued people and taught us that people and values are what make technology valuable.

Bill would ask us now to think about how we can define values, ethics, the ability to decipher what is right and wrong… How difficult is it to know the right thing? Know what is wrong? Some people just don’t understand like he did. It’s not about deals or money. It’s about honesty and sticking to our word.

Bill emphasized “doing the right thing.” Jokingly, I always think: WWBD, “What would Bill do?” He’d use his judgment because we all already know the right answer.

He endorsed the best behavior. He treated people the way others should be treated. He knew the value of time — and giving his all to others. He led by example, without any praise because that was Bill.

He knew each of us personally. He could recount back on all his years of coaching and give a personal story of each of his players.

He always told me: only you are responsible for you. Own your actions. Instill your values. Follow your ethics. Consider your behavior. Determine your bounds.

We face challenges everyday. In every aspect of our life. Make choices. Know an answer. Decide what to do. Be yourself. Embrace serendipity.

He feared nothing. Dared to dream. Stayed naïve. Believed dreams came true. Remained foolish.

His advice for us all would be: Don’t obsess. Learn, learn, and keep learning. Experience the world. Pursue your passion. Build and maintain relationships. Embrace change. And have a Bud Light every once in awhile.

He was and still is an angel among us all. He taught us all how to be human.

Now it’s our turn to take our memories and share them. Keep his memory alive through our actions. Pursue a life like Bill Campbell. Because at the end of the day, I want to be the type of person Bill Campbell was…

Billy-Bill… (one finger kiss up to the sky)

I’ll always be your Katie-Kate.

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